Drones are increasingly being employed and are providing important services leading to socio-economic benefits for a wide range of industries. This has led to the increasing adoption of drones in commercial, government, and military applications. The commercial drone market is expected to grow at a significant rate in the future.
Earlier, drones use to take a flight for a short range of about one km distance from the controller, signifying that the drone was visible to the remote pilot. The operating range of drones and UAVs is popularly known as the visual line of sight (VLOS).
Over the decade, the need for operating drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) range has proliferated due to their rising demand in commercial applications such as package delivery, linear inspection (rail, oil, and gas, windmill), and others.
The drone operations are primarily dependent on an effective communication system having critical features such as safety, good reliability, and redundancy. Some of the major modes used for communication with the unmanned aerial system (UAS/drone) platforms are the satellite, cellular, and radio. According to the analyst note published by BIS Research, the global commercial unmanned ariel vehicles, the market was estimated at $11.10 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.97%.
Major Concerns of Mobile Network Operators and Drone Companies
- Low connectivity: Presently, Operations of the cellular-connected drone are restricted in rural areas due to weak cellular connectivity and network availability.
- Regulations: Currently, several countries restrict the use of BVLOS drone operations for commercial applications. The main concern of the regulators is to maintain safety without putting lives and vital infrastructure at risk in case of a drone failure.
- Inadequate support infrastructure: Currently, there is not enough supporting infrastructure to enable safe autonomous BVLOS flights.
- Security issues: Cellular-connected drones are equipped with a multitude of sensors to collect and disseminate data. This provides numerous opportunities to expose them to vulnerabilities. These flying platforms are prone to cyber-physical attacks, with an intention to steal, control, and misuse the drone payload information by reprogramming it for undesired behavior.
Emerging Applications for BVLOS Drone Operations
Today, it’s market needs solutions that can provide faster transfer of data, leading to a reduction in the processing time of the collected information. Hence, companies are trying to employ advanced cellular technologies such as 5G and 6G and integrating them with drone infrastructure to enable multiple applications such as high-speed communication between a drone and a computer on the ground or to a cloud-based processing program.